Am­bu­lance fund

Motor Sport News - - Historics - Teenagers show­case, below

The Vin­tage Sports-car Club has an­nounced that the Mid­lands Air Am­bu­lance Char­ity will be the club’s nom­i­nated char­ity for the next three years. The char­ity has sup­ported the club’s an­nual Prescott hill­climb since 2011 and has raised over £6000 in that time. The MAAC op­er­ates across six coun­ties from Glouces­ter­shire to Stafford­shire.

Se­bastien Ogier will this week chose be­tween two op­tions for him to con­test next year’s World Rally Cham­pi­onship.

The French­man in­sists a de­ci­sion is just days away and M-sport’s Ford Fi­esta RS WRC is one of the two cars he could be driv­ing in 2017. Ogier wouldn’t be drawn on the iden­tity of the sec­ond op­tion – most feel it’s Toy­ota, but there re­mains a pos­si­bil­ity it could be Citroen or even a pri­vate Volk­swa­gen Polo R WRC ( see story right).

Citroen’s team prin­ci­pal Yves Mat­ton re­mains tight-lipped, of­fer­ing only a no com­ment on the ques­tion of whether Ogier could re­turn.

Asked if he had ne­go­ti­ated with Mat­ton’s su­pe­ri­ors, in­clud­ing PSA Group CEO Car­los Tavares, Ogier said: “You know I can’t an­swer those kind of ques­tions.”

Ogier did ad­mit to MN that he’s al­ready be­hind in his de­ci­sion­mak­ing process.

“When I came back from Aus­tralia,” he said, “my plan was that I wanted to know at the end of last week. But now there is more to think about. My vi­sion is be­com­ing clearer now. My wish is to race a bit more, but I can­not guar­an­tee that I will be at the start of Monte Carlo. How can I be 100 per cent sure when I do not have a con­tract in my hand?

“But for me, noth­ing has changed – I want the car with the best chance to win, I need this for my mo­ti­va­tion and I would also want sta­bil­ity for the fu­ture. I have op­tions with a one-year deal or two. It’s not about the money, it’s about the po­ten­tial. There are two op­tions for me now.”

Ogier was re­luc­tant to go into de­tail about the Yaris and Fi­es­tas he tested – ad­mit­ting only that the damp con­di­tions dur­ing his one day run­ning in the car made the Toy­ota test look worse than it was.

“It was not so good on the Tar­mac, I agree, but it was much bet­ter on gravel,” he said. “It was very slip­pery, so it doesn’t help to show the po­ten­tial, but also in th­ese con­di­tions you can quickly tell what’s wrong with the car.”

The four-time cham­pion said the en­thu­si­asm he ex­pe­ri­enced at M-sport – not least from team prin­ci­pal Mal­colm Wil­son – was steer­ing him to­wards the Fi­esta.

Ogier added: “Be­fore I knew any of this was go­ing to hap­pen, I said it would be good to work with Mal­colm – this doesn’t change. Mal­colm has made it clear it’s his pri­or­ity to work with us and this is some­thing play­ing in his favour: you like to have peo­ple who are very clear and very mo­ti­vated to work with us. Mal­colm clearly has the pas­sion.”

Talk­ing to MN just mo­ments af­ter stand­ing in the press con­fer­ence where Nico Ros­berg an­nounced his de­ci­sion to quit For­mula 1, Ogier ad­mit­ted he could un­der­stand the think­ing in the Ger­man’s fam­i­ly­mo­ti­vated de­ci­sion.

“Things do change when you be­come a fa­ther,” he said. “It changes your ap­proach. You know you are in your ca­reer and you are com­pro­mis­ing this [fam­ily life].”

Asked if he was still think­ing about tak­ing a year – or pos­si­bly even more away from the sport, he replied: “It would be OK. I have the four ti­tles, so I feel less pres­sure – it’s not like I’m chas­ing the first ti­tle. If it would stop now, it would not be so much the end of the world as it might have been.”

Wil­son’s com­mit­ment to an OgierM-sport deal re­mains as solid as it has been from the start of talks.

“Let’s wait and see what hap­pens,” Wil­son said. “We’re still in there and we’re still work­ing on it. Se­bastien wants to find him­self a good deal and I can un­der­stand that. We’re still work­ing on other ar­eas of the dis­cus­sions right now, but I think we’ll know pretty soon.”

Asked if he would take Ogier on a sin­gle-sea­son con­tract, Wil­son replied: “Yes, ab­so­lutely, that’s one of the op­tions. To be hon­est, I take a lot of sat­is­fac­tion – re­gard­less of what hap­pens from here – that we’re go­ing to have a com­pet­i­tive car for next sea­son. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t be around the ta­ble talk­ing.”

You had to feel for Hyundai. The Korean man­u­fac­turer had brought jour­nal­ists to­gether from across the world to show them their stun­ning new i20 Coupe WRC, but the firm’s third World Rally Car in as many years re­mained sec­ond on the col­lected me­dia agenda.

What had every­body heard? What about Citroen? Pri­vate Polo? Year at home? M-sport, surely…

Last week was all about Se­bastien Ogier and the iden­tity of his fu­ture em­ployer.

The whole drama’s start­ing to go on a bit now and that’s cer­tainly the feel­ing of the French­man him­self. He ad­mit­ted to set­ting him­self the tar­get of be­ing back in full time em­ploy­ment by the end of last week. But still it goes on. And in ad­di­tion to the now usual sus­pects of M-sport, Toy­ota and Citroen, Ogier threw a curved ball of his own in Vi­enna last week. Stand­ing on the side­lines of the press con­fer­ence where Nico Ros­berg an­nounced his de­ci­sion to depart For­mula 1, the reign­ing world cham­pion lis­tened in­tently and, when Mercedes team prin­ci­pal Toto Wolff was asked who might re­place the Ger­man, Ogier wasted no time.

“So, Se­bastien Ogier has just put his hand in the air,” smiled Wolff, “now we have a com­pletely new and very strong op­tion!”

Through the re­veal of one of the sport’s most ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated new cars, there were brief­ings, dis­cus­sions and opin­ion sought from across the board about where he should go and where he will go.

Citroen was the log­i­cal choice of Ogier’s fel­low drivers and posed the big ques­tion among the hacks.

Were we miss­ing some­thing? Af­ter ad­mit­ting he would an­swer Ogier’s tele­phone call when the news broke, Citroen’s team prin­ci­pal Yves Mat­ton has re­mained tight-lipped on what he would say when he picked up the phone. Beyond ac­cept­ing it would be com­pli­cated to run a fourth car (he al­ready had Kris Meeke, Craig Breen and Stephane Le­feb­vre un­der con­tract), he’s said no more.

There’s strong spec­u­la­tion that PSA Group CEO Car­los Tavares – the big­gest cheese around in the world of Citroen and Peu­geot – has be­come in­volved in ne­go­ti­a­tions. Tavares dis­missed the mil­lions re­quired im­me­di­ately. Some say.

Oth­ers? He’s think­ing about it and this is what is de­lay­ing an Ogier de­ci­sion.

Through all of this, M-sport’s Mal­colm Wil­son sits and waits. By the time Hyundai was done and dusted, it was Cum­bria that re­mained the most likely choice.

Ogier talked about, Dani Sordo widened the de­bate to in­clude the other two Volk­swa­gen drivers: An­dreas Mikkelsen and Jari-matti Lat­vala. The Spa­niard ad­mit­ted he was baf­fled by the con­tin­ued link­ing of Lat­vala and Toy­ota.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble,” he said. “Mikkelsen wins in Aus­tralia and then no­body talks about him, it’s in­cred­i­ble. It was Lat­vala-ogier, Ogier-lat­vala, but what about Mikkelsen?”

Well, MN can ex­clu­sively re­veal that Mikkelsen will drive a Yaris WRC next sea­son. Maybe. Don’t worry. This ex­tended – not to men­tion un­ex­pected – silly sea­son will draw to a close this week... Promise.

DE­CEM­BER 7 2016

Ogier is near­ing on his de­ci­sion for 2017 Ogier has tested the new Toy­ota WRC M-sport is an­other strong can­di­date with Fi­esta WRC

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